Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Reading from Homer (detail), 1885
The Early Epistles—
AUL, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2
And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
Gospel in Summary
3Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
No Other Gospel
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9
As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Answering a Personal Attack
10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
The clauses immediately following the word apostle are far too important to be enclosed by parentheses. The source of his apostleship is one of the main themes of the book.
neither from men nor through men] Neither a human source nor a human agency; the difference between the two prepositions is striking: apo (from or origin), dia (through or means).
(1: 2) Usually there is some expression of gratitude or praise, but the language here is abrupt, almost impersonal as if writer and reader knew each other slightly. The air is charged with emotion.
(1: 4) this present evil age] Evil is emphatic in the sentence. Lightfoot renders the phrase as this world “with all its evil.”
(1: 5) The verb is omitted here, but this is a common in a doxology.
(1: 6) so quickly] The adverb can refer to either time (soon) or manner (quickly), but here manner seems to be the thought. The Galatians had so easily changed. Compare a similar construction: “Lay hands suddenly (quickly) on no man ”
(I Tim. 5:22).
are turned] lit. desert, defect. The verb is present tense, middle voice, the present tense denoting an on-going process. (Even though the Galatians had yet to completely turn away, there is no question as to the direction they were going.) The middle voice further emphasizes their personal role in the matter. Others may have misled the Galatians, but the Galatians had allowed themselves to be turned away. The Galatians had made the choice on their own.
another gospel] Not just another gospel (alios) but a different kind of gospel (heteros). The difference in the two adjectives is very important. There is no other gospel.
(1: 7) which is not another except] A difficult sentence construction, but the ASV footnote is helpful: “which is nothing else save that. . . ” The gospel of the Judaizers was a gospel only in the sense it was a perverted gospel.
(1: 8-9) Both sentences are conditional but with an important difference. The first sentences is purely hypothetical (eon with subjunctive). No angel had come from heaven to preach another gospel. and no apostle had changed the gospel. The second sentence, however, is one of distinct possibility (ei with indicative). Not only was it possible that others could preach a distorted gospel, but this was actually being done. And the Galatians were actually open to such distortions.
accursed] lit. anathema, under the curse of God, devoted to destruction, like the ban pronounced on Jericho: “the city shall be devoted … only Rahab the harlot shall live, and all that are with her in the house” (Josh 6: 17). No one escaped the curse on Jericho, and no one will escape this curse.
as we said before] Perfect tense with emphasis on the continuing result of a past action. The Galatians had been forewarned. Both Paul and others, while with them, had told them about such things. And that warning was still in effect. This made the whole affair even more incredible since they could have and should have know.
Abrupt opening words,
Answering a personal attack,
(1:1-5) Paul personally had taught these people the gospel. And they had been very receptive. But after he left Galatia, others came and distorted what he had taught. These saw Paul as an inferior apostle who preached an inferior gospel. This letter from Paul is the answer to their charges. Paul was not some substandard apostle. God himself had fully commissioned both Paul and the gospel he preached. God had made Paul an apostle.
(1:6-10) Abandoning the gospel so easily, so unknowingly, so quickly is what the Galatians were doing. And Paul was astonished. He himself had forewarned them about the ease and the danger of apostasy. And the Galatians had understood that warning, but it happened anyway. The Galatians were on the verge of discarding the gospel they once believed. False teachers had merely made some additions to the gospel (they probably called them minor changes or improvements), but those additions were enough to poison, to corrupt, and to accurse.
Questions for Further Study
- How does Paul emphasize that his gospel came directly from God?
- The letter begins rather abruptly. How might you explain the emotional tone?
- Why did Christ die for us? Why did Christ die for me? His death was done willingly.
- The Galatians were in serious danger and should have realized the impending danger. What made them blind to their own best interests?
- What happens when we change the gospel? What happens to those who follow us?
- Paul did not follow Christ out of personal advantage. What does he say about pleasing God, or pleasing men? Which choice have we made?